VIDEOGAME MAKER SHOOTS DOWN MAX PAYNE

The head of the company that produces the Max Payne video games has joined the criticism of the movie based on the game. 3D Realms CEO Scott Miller told the video-game magazine Edge, "There are several fundamental story flaws ... in the film that have me shaking my head in bewilderment." Among them, he said, is the fact that Payne is seen in a flashback scene half way through the movie learning that his family has been murdered. Said Miller, "In the game, we put this scene right at the front of the story for a reason! Saving this scene until mid-film is a narrative blunder, because the audience needs to empathize with Max in order to like him and understand what drives him." In any case, the video-game-turned-movie led the box office over the weekend, earning $17.6 million. Disney's Beverly Hills Chihuahua slipped to second place with $11.4 million. Fox Searchlight's The Secret Live of Bees and Lionsgate's W. battled it out for third place with Bees flitting ahead with $10.53 million and W. settling for fourth with $10.51 million. Rounding out the top five was Paramount/DreamWorks's Eagle Eye with $7.0 million.

The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Media by Numbers (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):

1. Max Payne, 20th Century Fox, $17,639,849, (New); 2. Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Disney, $11,422,425, 3 Wks. ($69,282,560); 3. The Secret Life of Bees, Fox Searchlight, $10,527,799, (New); 4. W., Lionsgate, $10,505,668, (New); 5. Eagle Eye, DreamWorks/Paramount, $7,029,718, 4 Wks. ($81,021,825); 6. Body of Lies, Warner Bros., $6,824,259, 2 Wks. ($24,424,928); 7. Quarantine, Sony, $6,084,580, 2 Wks. ($24,471,512); 8. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Sony, $3,693,384, 3 Wks. ($26,500,875); 9. Sex Drive, Summit Entertainment, $3,607,164, (New); 10. Nights in Rodanthe, Warner Bros., $2,657,440, 4 Wks. ($36,869,470).

ICAHN SETS SITES ON FILM STUDIO

Carl Icahn, the activist financier who often buys into big companies, then pushes them to make changes that he believes will boost their stock value, has more than doubled his stake in Canadian-based Lionsgate. In an SEC filing, Icahn said that he acquired 6.51 million shares in the studio for $86.3 million, boosting his stake in the company to 9.2 percent. He had previously held 4.29 million shares. Industry watchers immediately began speculating about what Icahn may be up to. He said on Monday that he had met with the company's CEO Jon Feltheimer, but he did not disclose what his conversation with Feltheimer concerned. In an interview with Bloomberg News, David Bank, an analyst at ABC Capital Markets in New York, said, "They're sitting on a pile of cash, and the stock has been pretty badly beaten up, so one has to wonder if [Icahn is] seeking some change in the status quo." But others suggested that Icahn may merely have been interested in buying a stake in the studio at a bargain price. A Lionsgate spokesman told Daily Variety, "He has a superb track record in terms of recognizing when strong assets are undervalued."

NETFLIX REPORTS A MIXED BAG

Netflix, the online DVD renter, said Monday that it expects to earn slightly less than it had originally forecast -- $351-357 million versus its previous estimate of $353-359 million -- due to the economic downturn. Nevertheless, in a conference call with analysts, CEO Reed Hastings said, "The good news is that our earnings in [the fourth quarter] will come largely from existing subscribers. ... So those are substantially insulated from the effects of the economy. This is the strength of the subscription model." While the rate of subscriber growth has slowed, the company said that third-quarter net income increased 31 percent to $20.4 million and that revenue increased 16 percent to $341.3 million. It indicated that the sluggish economy was not the only factor in the third-quarter slow-down. The Olympics and the political conventions also competed for customers' attention, and the company also experienced a glitch in its shipment operations, causing it to give $6.5 million to customers in credits.

BITTORRENT WATCHERS DOWNLOADING OLDER MOVIES

Suggesting that BitTorrent users are not always trying to get a look at the most recently released films, the website TorrentFreak.com claimed Monday that Warner Bros.' Get Smart, which was released theatrically last June, was the most-downloaded film of the week. It is due to be released on DVD on November 4. Warner's Journey to the Center of the Earth, which was released in theaters in July and is due to be released on DVD next week, was the second-most-downloaded movie. Universal's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which topped the BitTorrent list last week, fell to third place, possibly because the DVD had already hit the stores last week.